To believe in the possibility of change is something very precise. It means that we believe in the reality of choice. That there are choices. That we have the power to choose in hope of altering society for the greater good. Do we believe that our governments must inevitably tax the poor through stealth taxes such as state controlled gambling? Or do we believe there is a choice? Do we believe that unserviceable Third World debt could be written off, if we choose to do so? The convictions that citizens have such power lies at the heart of the idea of civilization as a shared project. And the more people are confident that there are real choices, the more they want to vote – a minimal act – and of greater importance, the more they want to become involved in their society. (John Ralston Saul, The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World, 2009, pp.4-5)
We Michiganders and citizens of 34 other states have a choice to make in the next weeks, those of us who choose to weigh in on who might lead the federal government for the next four to eight years. If we are controlled by fears we will be drawn to what we perceive as the safest choice. There are certainly reasons for fear. But just as we keep kicking the response to ever more likely climate destabilization down the road with anemic actions, failure to change the direction of our political system is more probably leading right to the edge of an abyss we cannot fully fathom from here – a bigger fear, especially for those that live after we older ones expire.
So much prognostication about who would beat whom in a November runoff is full of uncertainty – the who’s and the whom’s for starters. The complexities of our interdependent systems are so vast and emergent properties unknowable that, despite our penchant for data based solutions, the forces that are beyond measurement still have much to say about where we go together as a human family on a finite planet.
Who decides to come to the polls that day, or stay home? What shifts might occur in races for local, state and national offices? What events might occur to shift our attention to issues not even on our radar at the moment? What funds of money will be unleashed to sell one candidate or to demolish another? Nate Silver and the other prognosticators of the day, despite their ability to crunch numbers can't answer those questions with anything like certainty. So we will decide based upon a combination of our faith in what we do know and on the hunches that fester inside each of us.
The reality as John Ralston Saul noted is choice matters and we each have it. What do we believe in? What are we willing to work for to make our collective future and that which we hand-off to our granddaughters and grandsons? Are we looking at short-term safety or longer term survival? Those are questions we might contemplate as we make our way to the polls in the coming week. As Phil Ochs once sang, these are the Days of Decision (click to listen).